Naturopathy or Naturopathic Medicine is a practice that seeks to improve health and treat disease mainly by supporting the innate capacity of human body to recover from illness and injury. Naturopathic practice can include a wide range of techniques: massages, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, psychotherapy, aromatherapy and many others. This school of thought originated at the end of the 1800's in the USA and then spread all around the world.
The most accepted meaning of " Naturopathy " is "path", nature's path to keep or restore wellbeing. It was coined in 1895 by John Scheel, a doctor from New York, and has its roots in the English words "nature" and "path". It is a much debated question about its etymology from the Latin word “natura” and the Greek one "pathos" (liking, empathy, feeling, pain) whose most obvious result would be “empathy with nature”. On the other hand, there are no derivations from the word “homeopathy”, whose only shared point is the holistic conception of the human being whereas for any other aspect it is totally different from naturopathy.
In 1902 Scheel authorized Lust (a disciple of Father Kneipp who had moved from Germany to USA in 1892) to use the term “Naturopathy” to describe the eclectic group of schools of thought about natural healing. It spread throughout USA, UK and Commonwealth and has been also recognized by the WHO. Water, sun, earth, food etc. are the healing principles of nature on which naturopathy is based.
Naturopathy states that healing means giving an energetic balance. The disease is the consequence of an energetic imbalance, that must be removed to make symptoms vanish.
differs from allopathy (i.e. THE medicine) as:
- It considers the disease as the consequence of an energetic imbalance (this principle belongs to the Chinese Traditional Medicine);
- It has a holistic approach to the patient (aimed at a global evaluation). The evaluation of each patient does not base on the simple symptoms but on the check-up of the whole behaviour sphere of the individual (for instance: life style, geo-biological aspects of his/her house etc.) in order to identify and remove the one causing the energetic imbalance.
The energetic re-balancing can be carried out by means of specific massage techniques based on the same principles of acupuncture in the Chinese Traditional Medicine: the stimulation of certain body parts is made through non-invasive methods (for instance, finger pressure) on the same points suitable for stimulation according to acupuncture.
Naturopathy does not represent a substitution of the allopathic medicine but is an alternative or complementary healing technique based on an approach by means of different interventions having a synergic action. For instance, naturopaths do not state they are able to remove cancer but that they can contribute to prevent it by an integration of therapies.
Naturopathy's history and spreading vary from one Country to another. According to a small bibliographic research there are around 320 titles in English, around 120 in German and around 7 in Italian. This is caused by the substantial differences between the Anglo-Saxon and the Roman Law in the health law of each Country.
The 1600's are strongly influenced by the great discoveries of Newton, Pascal, Kepler and Galileo originating two schools of thought: the one of the Iatrochemists and the other of the Iatromechanics, aimed at trying to classify medicine among the area of the exact sciences. At that time the first scientific magazines are published and, thanks to the significant collaboration between the natural sciences and the medicine, arises the experimental medicine. The great epidemics of Black Death, smallpox and typhus cause more than one million victims in Northern Italy; as a matter of fact, scientists experience a general interest in the social and legal protection, together with hygiene. The 1700's see a new systematic view of science, whereas philosophy begins influencing medicine especially in Germany (Kant).
The systematic view reveals itself mainly in the works of two important doctors:
- F. Hoffman states that human knowledge is limited as it is based on our senses and that a disease is the attempt of human soul to restore life order in the safest and quickest way,
- G.E. Stahl speaks about soul as supreme principle of life.
The systematic view is put into practice somehow mistakenly but in any case it is well worth mentioning its merit of having guessed the truth of a vitalist or dynamic conception.
William Culler from Edimburgh highlights the importance of the nervous system whereas his disciple J. Brown states that life in its essence is not a normal state but a forced one, based on continuous stimulations (sedatives and bloodlettings belonge to his therapy). The direction towards systematics originate other systems such as the mesmerism or animal magnetism.
The German doctor Hahnemann is a contemporary of Brown. He stimulates the natural defences of human body (dynamis), and identifies the mechanism that has broken patient's balance. He gives birth to the conception of “similarity” (Similia Similibus) and is nowadays considered as the father of homeopathy.
During the XIX century the medical science gains a higher credibility, together with the research and the medical profession. The great intellectual, social and political currents strongly influence the medicine as well as physics and chemistry. The microbiological conception is now replaced by the new Hippocratic one with two currents: the clinical-therapeutic and the hygienic–preventive (i.e. the evolution of the classical conception of the ancient Greek-Roman medicine). This is the European context where the western naturopathy emerges (especially in Germany) meant as an organic discipline professionally applied.
Moreover, J.J. Rousseau with his thought gives birth to the philosophic basis of the naturopathy: a simple and quiet life in contact with nature.
1865-1933 Shoenenberger, Germany, professor and chancellor of the University of Hydrotherapy, gives it the new name of University Clinic for Natural Life and Care. He is the first to introduce naturopathy in a hospital and systematize the naturopathic therapies in an official clinical form (he holds Priessnitz in high esteem).
J.Thomson and Stanley Lief, two of the most important English naturopaths, highlight the importance of fastening, resting, of a good-working intestinal function, warm baths, fresh air and orange juice also for 72-93 days as important strategies to treat rheumatoid arthritis and anaemia. He applies neuromuscular techniques (NMT) which are nowadays followed by Leon Chaitow.
Arno R. Koegler, Canada, born in Saxony in 1898, is the inspiration source of the new generation of naturopath students.